Jerry Meadows can finally go home.
Less than six hours after the Wahpeton, N.D., resident began walking Wednesday, May 1, from Bemidji to St. Cloud for a second time, the 61-year-old disabled veteran reached-and even surpassed-his initial goal of raising $5,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.
"I left Bemidji at about 8:30 in the morning, and I raised over $1,000 by 2 o'clock in the afternoon ... just south of Cass Lake," Meadows said.
Meadows made it to St. Cloud on foot on April 5 after leaving March 14 from Bemidji to raise money and awareness for the nonprofit. But the Air Force veteran did not reach his goal of $5,000 in donations, so he swore to keep walking until he raised enough money.
His initial walk raised about $4,000. His perilous journey south took him through Brainerd on April Fools' Day as cars, trucks and semitrailers sped by him along Highway 371, and later Highway 10, through several counties, including Crow Wing County.
"I said after $5,000, I get to go home and take my wife with me ... but about 2:30 that afternoon, we packed up-boy, I'm so glad to go home, you have no idea. We also raised from your article another $1,000 on top of the $5,000 I wanted to raise," Meadows said, noting the Dispatch story Wednesday about his second attempt.
Meadows and his wife began their journey last time from Paul Bunyan Park in Bemidji on his birthday. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1260 in Bemidji gave the couple a send-off with a police escort. For their second attempt, they were going to do everything exactly as before.
"Right now, if you looked at my physically, my legs are so swollen and beat up, but the thing of it is I would've made the journey all the way to St. Cloud again if I had to, but it was your article-the way it was written-that set it off," Meadows said of the recent outpouring of donations.
Meadows said the route from Bemidji to St. Cloud through Brainerd was chosen because it was centrally located. The driving distance from Paul Bunyan Park in Bemidji to St. Cloud is about 150 miles, according to Google Maps.
Virginia Miller followed her husband in a Jeep as he walked to St. Cloud, offering emotional and physical support to Meadows, who previously underwent a triple bypass. He also has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 10 cardiac stents and requires supplemental oxygen to live.
"I got people that are calling me now still from the Bemidji area who said, 'Hey, we just got back-we're snowbirds-we just got back and read your article ... and they're still calling me now," Meadows said of his publicity stunt.
A Veterans of Foreign Wars post in the St. Cloud area welcomed Meadows on April 5 with a reception after he spent nights sleeping in his Jeep as he made his way on foot weeks ago from Beltrami County through Cass, Crow Wing and Morrison counties to Stearns County.
The Wounded Warrior Project is a national nonpartisan nonprofit that seeks to connect, serve and empower wounded veterans of military actions after Sept. 11, 2001, through peers and programs; mental and physical health and wellness; and career and benefits counseling.